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The Camel Coat

A few years back there was a film version of the engrossing novel Possession by A.S. Byatt. You may know it only by the fact that it occasionally bobs up from the obscure depths of free Netflix recommendations. (Netflix, by the way, has decided that I like “Understated Comedies About Dysfunctional Families” by my ratings. I quickly ducked their radar by watching a slew of cheesy romantic comedies.)

Possession (the film) disappeared almost as soon as it appeared. I read the book in my early 20s and was engrossed for days on end, holing up in my smoky corner of Sitwell’s Coffeeshop with the rest of the desperate writers. (It is a writerly book about writers researching writers. Enough said.) A couple years later, I read in Mirabella magazine (the only magazine I have ever subscribed to, a combination of fashion and intellectualism, now sadly defunct) that it was being made into a film by Jane Campion, director of The Piano and last year’s absolutely lovely Bright Star.

Ten years went by, no Jane Campion movie. Read more →

The French Stripey Tee

My last post on style resolutions got me thinking about doing a series on classic fashion pieces. I’ve not been so good up till now with “series”–I get so distracted.

So I was rummaging around fabric sites for some quality striped knit fabric from which to remake a long-sleeve striped t-shirt. I made a cotton black and white shirt last winter, but the fabric pilled terribly after one washing. I gave up, thinking that striped shirts are so ubiquitous I should just buy one, and then I got lost in a sea of online stores doing all sorts of sailor stripey things. I’m a sucker for stripes, but especially any kind of stripey t-shirt. It just oozes French style.

Of course the classic stripe is the Breton sailor shirt, going back to the late 1800s as the military-issue French naval uniform and is now an entrenched symbol of national pride. Famous wearers include Chanel:

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Some Style Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions but I’ve got a lot of creative and personal goals that have been adding up since my momentous birthday two months ago, and I feel like setting them to sail this month.

Last year I started taking stock of my wardrobe as a way of acknowledging my age. I was soon to be 40, and that means something in terms of style and expression, right? While I wanted to challenge myself to me more experimental with fashion than I’d ever been I kept thinking about investing in some classics, things I’d want to always have around for the next 20 years.

I came across a book called The Pocket Stylist, which at first I was afraid would come down on the stifling side of fashion prescriptive-ness. I really don’t need prescriptions. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a kind of French motherly guidance on the art of dressing well. Understanding silhouette and composition on a body helps one’s style just as learning these basics in design make for better photographs. The book’s advice ranges from dressing for your figure to guidance on makeup and undergarments. It kind of bypasses all the now-ness of fashion to help a woman understand her DNA of style, no matter her age or lifestyle.

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Lady Grey Coat and Tailoring with Fusibles

Phew, after a few months of delay and other projects and big birthdays, I was finally able to get back to my coat project.

I had a lengthy fitting process to begin with–I was determined to cut the sleeves correctly and avoid all the sleeve ease. In the end what I came up with was a serious hack, so I’m not going to publish it here. I also redrafted the entire lining because I discovered some of the lengths between pieces didn’t match. (I’m wondering how others get around this.)

Just cutting this thing out took several sessions. The front is 7 pieces, the lining is 10, then two collar pieces, one long belt and belt loops. Then there’s the interfacing. Oh yay, more cutting!

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Black and White Love

I am all about black and white right now. Give me a tuxedo jacket any day, any time of the year.


It’s so simple and so easy.

I get regular promotional emails from lagarconne.com. While most of their clothing is out of my price range, I love the editorials and the ideas. There are several online retailers doing this now, some even doing video. The most famous of these, of course, is net-a-porter.com with their weekly “magazine” editorials. They have the size and pull–one of the first online stores to sell big luxury designers–to commission videos with people like Stella McCartney and such.

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My Pattern Collection is Getting Out of Hand

One of the things that inspired me to get back into sewing was my discovery that one didn’t need to be limited by the local fabric chain store for pattern and fabric ideas. I completely missed the huge spawn of sewing blogs and pattern review sites, the craftwoman explosion, online fabric shops and independent pattern companies–all in the last seven years. Ten years ago I had never seen a Burda Magazine or even Kwik Sew patterns, let alone the dozens of small fashiony pattern companies that cropped up.

Then I discovered Etsy and its gorgeous reams of vintage pattern and knick-knack shops. Danger, Will Robinson!

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personal style and enjoying womanness

It has been a busy, busy fall. Lots of catch-ups on gardening, old friends coming into town, new babies being born, and turning 40.

What’s that, you say? Yes, I hit the big one. I started an eloquent post–actually, I started quite a few eloquent posts on a number of topics–but they are all sitting as “drafts” in my blog. I promise I’ll be back with my thoughtful post on turning 40 but for now, I am thinking about fashion a lot. More than I care to admit.

I’m an intellectual who loves fashion. I dream about it, I research it like mad (the internet has become a dangerous and yet amazing world for a fashion fiend), I have an insane collection of magazines (and Anthropologie catalogs, how I love you) falling all over the place. Twice a year, I spend time writing notes about what my “theme” is for the next season. Fashion is holistic for me; it’s not just about something cool to wear. It’s about storyboarding the next 6 months or so of my life. I think about colors, textures, shapes–where I see myself going and how to express that.

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The Dress Form Mystique

{via Coup d’Etat}

I’d always wanted a professional-type dress form–the old-school kind with a linen cover, cast-iron base for rolling around and one of those trippy iron cage skirts at the bottom.

No, I’m not talking about the 18th century French version, although you can see why they needed the cage skirts in the first place. (But what exactly are they for now?)

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Adventures in Design Perfection

{Or how I learned not to trust patterns and wrestled with a sleeve cap in order to avoid stabbing myself with pins.}

I’m still in the throes of fitting my Lady Grey muslin. For about a week, there has been pattern paper and tracing paper thrown all over my office. In my spare time, I’ve been tracing and re-tracing. I had to adjust quite a bit in the bust area, and then realized the bust area comprised 2 front pieces, 1 facing and 2 lining pieces. It is not as simple as taking a dart out of one-piece bodice.

There is something about sewing patterns that brings out the utter abstractionist in me. Looking at the pattern and imagining how it works has become more fun than sewing it. As a teenager, I used to think the fun part of sewing was in the actual sewing, getting to the machine. The faster I could get things cut out the better.

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Remember When?

I’m not sure I was old enough, but five shakes to the person who can guess what this AllSaints ad is riffing.

I was in this store a couple of years ago. Spitalfields itself is a fun place to shop, a little out of the way of other more obvious London destinations. It used to be a market, once a prominent neighborhood of textile merchants and weavers–mostly silk industry–but it declined in the Victorian era when silks started importing from France. There’s a whole story about Huguenots in there. I’m on the side of the Huguenots. Now the place has got a kind of warehouse arty feel.

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